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Creative Strategies to Transform School Culture

Creative Strategies to Transform School Culture

Edited by:

July 2009 | 176 pages | Corwin

"Principals at all levels will find this book valuable. It translates espoused theories of climate and culture into practical ideas."
—Boyd Dressler, Associate Adjunct Professor
Montana State University

"Focused, to the point, and direct—a quick read for a busy principal looking for ideas."
—Leslie A. Standerfer, Principal
Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, AZ

Set the tone for educational success!

School culture is one of the most important factors in student and staff performance. Positive climates foster superior achievement, while negative climates discourage learners, educators, and parents alike. Based on thirty years of combined experience as school principals, staff developers, and educational leaders, John F. and Sheila Eller present a wide spectrum of unique, practical, and proven strategies to improve school climate and culture.

Divided into chapters that emphasize the main components of school culture, this guide allows busy school leaders to go directly to the section that best addresses their specific needs. The authors provide a clear definition of culture along with diagnostic tools to help readers determine the state of their school's culture. Chapters feature activities and ideas to:

  • Foster personal rapport and collegiality between staff members
  • Develop collaborative work relationships
  • Improve staff meetings
  • Address issues related to office operations
  • Deal appropriately with conflict

Creative Strategies to Transform School Culture offers fun and inventive ideas for school leaders who are working diligently to create a collaborative teaching and learning environment.

About the Authors
1. Culture and Climate
About This Chapter

School Climate Versus Culture

Rapport, Trust, Climate, Culture, and Their Interrelationship

The Importance of Trust

Building and Sustaining Organizational Trust

Strategies to Build Trust and Impact School Climate


2. Diagnosing the Present Climate and Culture of Your School
About This Chapter

Informal Diagnostic Strategies

Formal or Structured Diagnostic Instruments

Planning Templates


3. Building the Foundation for Success
About This Chapter

Working With the Office Staff

Strategy: Planning and Developing an Effective Office Staff

Creating a Positive Physical Environment for Staff

Strategy: Through These Doors

Welcoming Staff Back to School

Activity: Getting to Know Your Teachers and Staff

Activity: Welcome Back Barbeque

Refreshments for Staff

Business Cards for Staff

Name Plates for Teachers

Positive Message

First Day Survival Kit

Ice Cream Social Event

Breakfast for Staff

Wrapping Up the Classroom

Book Fair Gifts


4. Building an Emotional Base for Your Climate and Culture Improvements
About This Chapter

Activity: Measuring Their Impact

Activity: I Remember When...

Activity: Descriptive Footwear

Activity: The Boot Award

Activity: Jack-O-Lanterns

Activity: Block of Support

Activity: Artifact Introductions

Activity: The Thank You Blitz

Activity: Candle Ceremony

Activity: Bag of Positive Phrases

Activity: Spread the Word

Activity: Reward With a Smile

Activity: A Novel Staff

Activity: Floating or Traveling Trophy

Activity: Jelly Bean Questions

Activity: Snowball Fight


5. Staff Meeting Starters to Build Culture
Activity: Good News

Activity: Human Bingo

Activity: Who's Connected

Activity: My Piece of the Pie

Activity: I'm a Card


6. Activities to Couple With Tasks and Decisions
About This Chapter

Activity: Future Set

Activity: Carouseling

Strategy: Leafing Out With Goal Attainment

Activity: Comparison Diagram

Activity: Buy What Is Most Important

Activity: It's a Star

Activity: Criteria Rating

Activity: Progressive Problem Solving

Activity: From My Perspective

Activity: Ripple Effects

Activity: Small Group Ripple Effects

Activity: Sticky Note Ripple Effects

Activity: Ripple Effects Contest

Activity: Carousel Ripple Effects


7. Building a Sense of Team
About This Chapter

Interdependence, Community, and Their Impact on School Climate and Culture

Activity: Toxic Waste Transfer

Activity: Figure It Out

Activity: Communication Problems

Activity: All Tied Up

Activity: Passing the Hoop

Activity: Building a Poker Hand

Activity: Hula Hoop Relays

Activity: Circle of Support

Activity: Rising Tower

Activity: It Takes a Village


8. We're Not Getting Along; Now What?
About This Chapter

The Nature of Conflict

Activity: Pack Up Your Baggage

Activity: Parking Lot Meeting

Activity: Transfer the Anger

Activity: Ashes to Ashes

Activity: Go to Your Corners

Activity: Corner on Perspectives

Activity: Victory Laps

Activity: Half-Full or Half-Empty

Activity: Compare our Perspectives

Activity: Peeling the Onion

Mediating Between Conflicting Parties

Productive Influence of Conflict on a Team

Conflict and Chaos


9. Celebrating Your Success
About This Chapter

Strategy: Planning the Celebration at the Start of the Initiative

Activity: High Fives

Activity: Banana Splits

Activity: Gallery Walk

Strategy: Trophy Case Displays

Strategy: Get Out of Duty Cards

Strategy: Success Thermometer


10. Supporting Climate and Cultural Change as a Leader
About This Chapter

Step 1: Understand Your Strengths, Weaknesses, and Inhibitions

Step 2: Build a Seedbed

Step 3: Plant the Seeds

Step 4: Nurture Them, Watch Them Grow

Step 5: Pull the Weeds

Step 6: Harvest the Crop



“A clear, consistent focus.”

Darryl L. Williams, Principal
Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, MD

“Focused, to the point, and direct—a quick read for a busy principal looking for ideas.”

Leslie A. Standerfer, Principal
Estrella Foothills High School, Goodyear, AZ

“Principals at all levels will find this book valuable. It translates espoused theories of climate and culture into practical ideas.”

Boyd Dressler, Associate Adjunct Professor
Montana State University
Key features
  • Practical and proven ideas, strategies, and activities
  • Organized into common themes of collaboration, working through conflict, problem solving, effective decision making, building a strong learning community, and improving work climate

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

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